Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Published: 1726 (so early you can get it at Project Gutenberg for free)

Genre: travel writing/fantasy

Length: 268 pages

Setting: various fantastical islands around the world, 1699-1715

Interest: Lilliputians came up in conversation somehow and the kids didn’t know the reference. I resolved to fix that by reading them the source material. Continue reading

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A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor

Published: 1986

Genre: southern literary fiction

Length: 209 pages

Setting: NYC and Memphis, 1980s

Interest: It won the Pulitzer Prize Continue reading

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Short Stories by Helen Marshall

by Chris Buzelli

by Chris Buzelli

Title: The Hanging Game

Published: March 2013, which you can read for free at

Genre: fantasy

Length: 9 pages

Setting: Lawford (somewhere up north), recent past

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: The kids of Lawford play a game where they give themselves to Old Hangjaw by nearly strangling themselves hanging from an ash tree. In return, Old Hangjaw gives them a vision they repeat to the Priest (one of the kids’ roles in the game). That vision is a true seeing of their future luck, but the person who said it doesn’t remember it and you’re not allowed to repeat it back. Their game stops when one kid dies (Old Hangjaw claimed his blood price). However, the repercussions of their actions continue throughout their adult lives.

Final thoughts: A creepy story. It was more than just the kids nearly suffocating themselves. It was the thread of the blood price required by Old Hangjaw and his bears that the kids often had to pay for the sins of the fathers.

Title comes from: The game the kids played drove the plot of the story


Title: I’m the Lady of Good Times, She Said

Published: 2013 in End of the Road

Genre: ghost story

Length: 14 pages

Setting: Ash Fork (the American southwest), present day

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: The narrator has made a mistake. He got caught cheating on his wife, Juney, by his Juney’s crazy-mean brother, Carl. It’s no use protesting that the woman he was caught with was a ghost. Carl’s not looking for excuses. Instead, he forces the narrator to drive into the desert to shoot him on the side of the road.

Final thoughts: Again, creepy. We get some back story of the narrator’s life with Juney (not all good) and Carl’s behavior (mean for the sake of it) while he’s driving himself into the desert to be killed. He’s trying to come up with a good spin on his situation. She was a ghost after all! But, in the end, he realizes the futility of trying to rationalize himself to Carl. Then, when he comes back to be with Juney after he’s dead and lays down with her in bed – what’s going to happen there? That can’t end well, can it?

Title comes from: It was a line the woman he slept with used in a movie. (She was his high school, movie star, wet dream source.)

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or title to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Weekly Wrap-Up: the 50 States

It’s a new month so a new topic in our homeschooling adventures. In the local public schools, everyone studies Pennsylvania history in fourth grade. Mr. Curiosity got a chance to learn some Pennsylvania history when we were part of a homeschooling co-op. I thought Miss Adventure should have the pleasure as well. Of course, I’m not going to use the textbook they use in the public schools. I’m going to find a bunch of books in the library.

Mr. Curiosity decided he wanted to do a more general study of the original 13 colonies (which goes along with our American History Club topic we’re currently reading about). So, I pulled out a couple of books that provide some state history, starting with Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America by Lynne Cheney and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. The premise behind the book is a year-long road trip to visit all 50 states. One each two-page spread for each state, you see a small map with key cities marked, important people from that state, and little informative bits about the state. Many of the little captions are written like a postcard sent home, to keep with the road trip feel. It’s definitely a book you would just flip to a page and peruse all the illustrations and information.

I also found Greetings From The 50 States: How They Got Their Names by Sheila Keenan. Again each state gets a two-page spread. This time, one page is an illustration of the state, and the facing page is some state history associated with the state’s name and nickname.

Finally, we dragged out National Geographic United States Atlas for Young Explorers, Third Edition. Mr. Curiosity inherited my fascination with maps, so he received this as a Christmas present several years ago. The book breaks the U.S. down into regions. For each region, the book provides some highlights, and then a fairly detailed map of each state, including important statistics about the state.

Each of these three books provides some superficial information about our states, but each focuses on a different aspect of the state.

I also thought I’d add a new component to our weekly wrap-up: the kids’ favorite books of the week. Mr. Curiosity has recently discovered Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events series (starting with The Bad Beginning: Or, Orphans!) They are a quick read, but there are so many the series will keep him occupied for a few weeks at least. Miss Adventure’s favorite book from the library this week was Operation Bunny: Book One. She liked the combination of fairies and bunnies in a story. Again, a quick read, but fun, and the start of a series that she can continue.

And those are some of the books and activities we used this week. Linking up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Weekly-Wrap-UpIf you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or title to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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Updraft by Fran Wilde

Published: 2015

Genre: YA fantasy

Length: 364 pages

Setting: a fantasy world

Interest: I had seen it as a Big Idea on John Scalzi’s blog and thought the premise of the story was interesting. When I saw it at the library, in search of some YA, I picked it up. Continue reading

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Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick

Published: 2015

Genre: middle grade graphic novel

Length: 192 pages

Setting: Earth, present day

Interest: I had seen it reviewed somewhere online (I forgot to record where since I went straight to the library page to request the book). I’m always on the lookout for good graphic novels (the whole family enjoys them) and this looked like it fit the bill. Continue reading

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Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Published: 2002

Genre: urban fantasy

Length: 371 pages

Setting: a magical Chicago, present day, a few months after the events in Gravel Peril

Interest: It’s the fourth book in the Dresden Files series Continue reading

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